Musée Grévin: Wax Characters Frozen in Time

Musée Grévin: Wax Characters Frozen in Time
Workers at the Musée Grévin in Paris detached the wax head of the figure of Vladimir Putin and locked it in a small wooden box. The likeness of the Russian dictator was recently removed from exhibition after visitors damaged it late February 2022. Museum employees hated working under his cold, plastic gaze. Museum director Yves Delhommeau told France Bleu radio that “…for first time in the museum’s history we are withdrawing a statue because of historical events currently underway.” They can no longer present a character like Putin. The statue, created in 2000, was removed to a warehouse until further notice. The Musée Grévin is considering replacing it with a statue of the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Wax figures of Pope Francis, Queen Elizabeth, and Putin at the Musée Grevin in 2018. © Hazel Smith There are over 500 characters frozen in time at the Musée Grévin: not just politicians, good and bad, but personalities taken from French history and modern life. In the gallery that dashes through the history of France, there are original wax figures dating from the 19th century. A tableau of Marat shows him in his actual bathtub. Nearby is the knife Charlotte Corday used to kill him. Contemporary international figures and film stars have been also been recreated. Over time, the Grévin has fabricated over 2,000 lifelike figures. Some of the wax models are shockingly well done, so uncanny they make one’s stomach flip. Some skip the mark completely. It’s hard to pinpoint why, but they’re a hair’s breadth too artificial and too shiny. A program is needed to identify even some of the famous.   View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Grévin Paris (@grevin_paris) About half a dozen celebrities join the Musée Grévin every year. The gallery features models of Charles de Gaulle, and Asterix the Gaul, the Sun King, Queen Elizabeth II, the Little Prince, Lady Gaga and recent arrivistes like Bieber and Nick Jonas. The Musée Grévin ranks as one of the oldest wax museums in Europe. Established in 1882 by Arthur Meyer, founder of the newspaper Le Gaulois, Meyer wanted his readers to see representations of the personalities and events found in the pages of his paper. At that time, images of newsmakers of the day were rare. For visitors to Meyer’s museum it must have seemed as if characters had sprung into three-dimensional life from the pages of Le Gaulois.

Lead photo credit : Musée Grévin entrance © Wikimedia Commons

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A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.